tv U.S. Senate U.S. Senate CSPAN March 25, 2020 3:59pm-8:00pm EDT
mr. udall: i wish to vitiate the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. udall: today we face a pandemic the likes of which we have not seen in over 100 years and today the senate must act to pass the largest relief package for the american people in our history. first i'd like to extend my thoughts and prayers to everyone who is personally affected by this coronavirus pandemic. i thank the health care workers who are working long hours and risking their own health to save lives. they are performing a national service. the numbers of infected individuals and the rapidly rising death toll with staggering. if we do not follow public health experts advice, the totals could be truly horrifying. in new mexico we have over 100 diagnosed cases and today the
first death in our state was reported, a senior citizens from edy county in the southeastern part of our state passed away. all americans are facing new challenges, a threat to our health, a threat to our economy. my top priority is easing this hardship and making sure new mexicans have what they need to stay healthy and to stay economically afloat. with that in mind, i'm rising it today to tell new mexicans relief is on the way. we relief to american workers who have been put of work and to small businesses that are making impossible decisions because of the coronavirus pandemic. relief to our hospitals and front-line health care workers facing an overwhelmed health care system in the coming weeks
and months and relief to local states and governments that are doing their best to take care of their residents and maintain essential services. state and local governments are desperately in need of assistance only the federal government can provide. and tribal governments to whom we owe trust and treaty obligations to provide health care, education, and community assistance, particularly in times of need. after days of furious negotiations, i'm pleased and relieved that democrats and republicans were able to reach agreement on what will be the largest federal relief effort in our history. the times demand a response of this magnitude. the stay-at-home orders which make no mistake are necessary to stop the virus, threaten the
livelihood of millions of working families that live paycheck to paycheck. millions of small businesses are in dire need of help. they power our economy but simply can't survive during the kind of economic downturn we now face. the federal government has the power to make sure that people can take the public health measures that are necessary while also staying afloat financially. we are here in the senate -- we here in the senate need to make absolutely sure that everyone, not just those at the top -- that everyone is taken care of and can weather this crisis. i'm strongly supportive of the small business relief in this bill, which includes loans of up to $10 million that can be forgiven and turned into grants if employees are kept on the payroll.
this relief will go through the small business administration and be available to any business or nonprofit under 500 employees. with democrats at the negotiating table, we worked toward that goal, and as a result, american workers will receive four months more of unemployment insurance instead of just three because so many americans are now out of work we need an expanded unemployment insurance plan. this plan extends unemployment to the self-employed for the first time, it increases the maximum benefit by $600 per week. many workers will receive their full pay under this expansion. just to give an idea of the magnitude of this problem in my home state of new mexico, during the week of march 9, we had fewer than 800 claims for
unemployment. this last week we had 11,000 and now we are receiving 7,000 every day. also, because democrats stood firm, our health care system will see an infusion of $55 billion into the marshal plan for health care. the total public health care investment in this bill is now $150 billion. we will establish a $150 billion relief fund for state, local, and tribal governments to help cover costs of fighting this virus. new mexico is eligible for up to $1.25 billion from this, and we will bring accountability and transparency for the relief of industries and large corporations. this relief bill puts in
transparency and independent oversight and also makes sure that elected politicians, including the president, are not the beneficiaries of this fund. we face a national crisis of monumental proportions, and i'm heartened that republicans and democrats in this body join together over -- joined together over the last several days to face this crisis to the as a nation -- together as a nation. this is what we do as americans. and i have hope that as we continue to face down this crisis in the coming weeks months, we will continue to do so in a united fashion. as vice chair of the senate indian affairs committee, i've been particularly focused on making sure that indian country is not left out, and ensuring that tribes who are on the front lines of this public health and economic crisis have the resources they need and deserve.
together, with my democratic colleagues, i fought for and secured an $8 billion set aside for tribal governments and their enterprises. this tribal relief fund will provide the 574 federally recognized indian tribes with flexible resources, resources they need during the covid-19 response. and i'm glad we found bipartisan agreement on this. we also secured over $2 billion in emergency funding for tribal needs, and this includes over $1 billion for the indian health service that will be used for everything from expanding medical services to purchasing equipment to promoting public health education to expanding telehealth services and increasing disease surveillance. and over $700 million that will go to the bureau of indian
affairs, the bureau of indian education, and the h.u.d. office of native american programs. these funds will assist tribal governments as they make their way through this crisis and support their members, support the i.b.e. schools and tribal colleges and universities so that students continue with their education, and provide housing for those most in need who were impacted by this terrible virus. these are key victories, but we're not done. we must uphold our trust and treaty responsibilities to all american indians and alaska natives, and so congress must do more to respond to the unique covid-19-related public health and economic crises in indian country. tribes are some of the most vulnerable populations with the least robust health care
systems. we have a very scary outbreak on the navajo nation and i'm sure that beneed to weigh in -- we need to weigh in and help there. for our next response package, and believe me we're going to have to monitor this closely and we're in all likelihood going to be back here again. we must make sure that indian country has equal access to federal coronavirus resources. senator heinrich and i fought hard for new mexico priorities. we are working hard on issues that have to do with our national labs, one of our very, very top employers, in fact, probably the biggest. new mexico's creative economy can't be left behind. sitting at the lead democrat on the appropriations subcommittee that funds the national endowment, i pushed for an additional $75 million for both
the national endowment for the arts and national endowment for the humanities. these funds will support local artists and arts programs through this tough economic ti time, when arts and cultural venues are shuttered and artists and all others are out of work, there's no doubt that these are exceedingly difficult times but together we can get through this. i would like to remind everyone to follow the public health measures recommended by the experts. staying at home is the best thing we can do to slow the spread of this virus and ensure our health care systems are not overrun. these measures are a fire break that cuts off the fuel for this virus and prevents a catastrophe that overruns our hospitals. social distance, wash your hands for 20 seconds.
we all have an important part to play in containing covid-19 and keeping ourselves and our neighbors and our communities safe. the state of new mexico is under a stay-at-home order. i commend governor grisham for the quick and decisive action that she has taken and she is focusing in like this like a laser beam. i know these measures are difficult and a hardship for many, but we will only be able to revive our economy once this public health crisis is abated. if we just let the virus run its course, we could lose over a million people. some estimates are two million, one to two million. that would be totally unacceptable and devastating. and because of the frontline
health care workers, the doctors, the nurses, and the technicians and all those who support that work, hospital janitors, cafeteria workers and so many others, this public health crisis will see an end. thank you to everyone who is risking their own safety to help others and thanks to all the senate staff that is here on the floor and the people that work here. in the days and weeks and months ahead, we must continue to closely monitor all as pepghts of the impact of coronavirus on our nation's health and economy and continue to decisively and aggressively respond to the needs of the american people. i am confident that working together as one nation and one people we will meet and beat this crisis and come out on the other end stronger. to conclude we must pass this
mr. leahy: madam president. the presiding officer: the senator from vermont. mr. leahy: madam president, i ask unanimous consent the call of the quorum be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. leahy: madam president, senators have been working very hard to respond to the crisis that's facing our whole nation. each one of us has certain things that our states -- in our states that might be unique, but
we also are here for all of america. and all of america is suffering. i know my -- my staff, my staff in vermont, my staff down here, the appropriators, the appropriations staff have been working every day, every night until midnight or later, weekends. nobody has had any time off. i have been proud to work with them even though we have set up, as i would hope all would do, so we could teleconference and we could work remotely. earlier this week, we were faced with the prospect of a bill that was very one-sided. republicans and democrats have not done what we do best, sitting down and putting it together.
we were given almost a take it or leave it bill. and i applaud senator schumer who said come back together. let's not pass that bill which leaves out so much of america, so much of the people that we represent. left us come together, both as republicans and democrats, and find a better bill. now, late last night -- actually, closer to this morning, an agreement was reached in principle on such a bill. the appropriators do only a part of it. senator shelby and i tried to work together to have something where all the appropriations committee or the vast majority of the appropriations committee, republicans and democrats would agree, and we did that. that's what we have before us.
i'm sorry that there seem to be some -- now i think that senators have -- and senators again on both parties have worked so hard to put together something we can all agree on. we have something we should be able to agree on, we should be able to vote. i agree with the discussions that -- speaking of just our party. discussions that senator schumer had this morning. we all know that none of us got every single thing we want. just as i'm sure my republican friends have not got every single thing they want. and is any bill perfect, especially something of this unprecedented magnitude? of course not. but we are at a point where reality has to overcome rhetoric. we have to stand up and be the conscience of the nation, as we have been in the past, and can be today.
it is time for senators to come together and vote. i know on our side, senator schumer, that under his leadership and the others are ready to do that. i don't think people realize in our caucus, we go across the political spectrum. we have something that we all want. i'm the dean of the senate. i've been here the longest. i'm not going to get everything i want and neither is the presiding officer nor is anyone. but america is going to get a lot more than it has now. let's do this for america. let's pass this bill. let's bring it up. let's vote on it. let's stop saying, oh, but, yes, you have 98%, 99% of what i want, but i've got this other
little piece. no, as americans we should say it's reality time, not rhetoric time. reality trumps rhetoric any day. let's go ahead and vote. i commend those senators, the republican party and those senators in the democratic party who have worked so closely with each other. i know we have in appropriations, but in so many other parts we have. and it's time to say, okay, let's vote. with that, mr. president, i will suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. mr. grassley: i ask that the quorum call be suspended. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. grassley: i know we have a very important piece of legislation before us to turn this economy around and help out in our battle against the virus. while we're waiting to vote on that, i come to the floor for a couple points that i would like to make. the first one is to honor a famous iowan. this month is called iowa history month, so i come to the floor to speak about one of iowa's favorite sons, dr. norman borlog, whose birthday is today.
he's considered the farmer of the green revolution. raised on a farm near cresco, iowa, he is credited with saving more lives than anyone in history with his breakthroughs in agronomy. it took him several years to accomplish what a lot of scientists do now in a laboratory in regard to fighting diseases in plants, and he did this in mexico and india. his work helped to overcome malnutrition and famine across the world, saving over one billion lives in the process. his achievements won him the nobel peace prize. but not only that famous prize but also the presidential medal of freedom and the congressional gold medal. i think that there's only five
or six people that fall into the category of winning all three of those prizes. his achievements also prompted the state of iowa to honor him with one of iowa's two statues in the -- in the statuary hall year in the u.s. capitol. on another subject, some pundits and even members of this body have suggested that it's inappropriate to criticize the chinese community party for its mishandling of the coronavirus that originated in wuhan, china, because it distracts from bashing the president. we went from mainstream media outlets routinely referring to the virus by its origin to this
being totally politically incorrect. there's an excellent timetable published by axios that lays out the chinese cover-up that prevented early action to contain the virus. the chinese pro-democracy activist, mr. wei you warned that general secretary xi is ordering people back to work prematurely, risking another massive outbreak of what he calls wuhan pneumonia. telling the truth about the chinese communist party's misdeeds does not preclude talking about how we can improve our own response. we can learn from free countries like south korea, which has been able to contain a widespread
outbreak, and taiwan and japan, who appear to have been able to prevent widespread outbreaks. so this is not the time for political correctness or political point-scoring to get in the way of telling the truth or working together in a clear-eyed way to address the challenges at hand. i yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from dell ware. a senator: mr. president, are we in a quorum call? the presiding officer: we are. a senator: i ask the proceedings under the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. coons: mr. president, i came to this building, this capitol about 12 hours ago today and recorded first thing this morning a video to share on social media with folks back at home who are been eagerly asking what's up, what's happening, what's next. and my message was simple. after days of disagreement and of tuesdayling, of fighting -- of tussling, of fighting, of crafting, we have a deal and i am ready to vote. let's move forward. 12 hours later i stand in a largely empty chamber with an odd sense of foreboding as i have all day, as have many of my colleagues wondering what is taking so long, what is the
delay, what are the remaining issues. and i am hopeful, prayerfully, that we will resolve what is left, move to this chamber, take up the text, vote it out, send it to the house, send it to the president, and send $2 trillion in support o to our nation. but let me tell you as i have waited today and yesterday, as i've taken phone calls from folks from delaware, for whatever reason they all say when will the senate act. and we faced a challenge over our last couple of days between moving swiftly and moving wisely, to put together a package of this size with no hearings, with no committee proceedings, with no detailed legislative process means it is -- means there are rough edges,
means there will be mistakes in this bill. is it perfect? no. in fact, in some pieces we will discover as it unfolds, far from it. but across the country, just as in this chamber, there is that sense of anxiousness, of anxiety, of when will it happen. just a few weeks ago, the vast majority of our country was reading about coronavirus, about covid-19, as something happening in distant countries on far shores. they read about sort of concerns about its alarming and rapid growth in asia and then europe. things started changing as the stories got more dire and more grave. as public health officials began to predict a global pandemic. as the world health organization announced it a global pandemic, as scientific leaders began to say that the united states would inevitably be touched by it, as
our colleagues from the pacific northwest told us about how their communities were being affected, has extended contacts and friends and acquaintances on social media and the press shared how they or members of their community had become infected. and as it began to move across our country, began to impact a remarkable range of institutions from baseball to broadway. the cloture motion of all sorts of treasured american institutions, every major sports league, every major public gathering, and as now state after state has issued edicts, as city and county alike all over our county has -- all over our country have asked people to close their restaurants and their bars, their small businesses, as hotels have no occupants, as airplanes fly with no passengers, it's become haunting, eerie, the sense of an
imminent disaster. just before coming over here, i read an article in "the new york times" about how in my region in the mid-atlantic, it has hit. in the borough of queens, in the city of new york, in a public hospital known as elmhurst yesterday, 13 patients died. and in a riveting account, the nurses and the doctors described a catastrophic situation. public health officials, strained health aides stretched to their limits, tested as they hadn't been before, struggling to get personal protective equipment, to have enough ventilators, to have enough i.c.u. units. and i will tell you, as over the last couple of days, i have talked with the heads of each of our major hospitals, folks who run skilled nursing facilities, nonprofit community health
centers. as i have heard from nurses and doctors, i know the level of alarm and concern has steadily risen in recent days. so, folks, tonight as i stand here on the floor of the senate, i am mindful that our nation is suffering. that there are people all over the world but particularly here in the united states, in the states that we represent who are anxious, who are unemployed, who are uncertain. in some cases now too many who are infected, who are hospitalized. it has come home to this chamber as one of our colleagues has tested practice and one of our dear colleagues' husband, spouse, is hospitalized. we know members of the house and the senate and the staff and our immediate community have been touched by this dread disease. we are now at a critical moment in our modern history, simultaneously a public health crisis and an economic crisis.
i've heard too many people say it's unprecedented. it's not unprecedented. the united states and our nation have made it through tougher times than this. to say that the great depression in the second world war, the civil war, and the revolution, the hard work of labor organizing and the desperate work of throwing off the shackles of segregation and of jim crow, to say that those weren't tough and difficult struggles misses the significance of our history and the things we have overcome. but for most of us, for most of our families, for most of our communities, this wave, this pandemic, this virus and the combined health and economic disaster that is upon us may be the greatest test we have faced. so how have we answered? thousands of businesses already closed. millions of people already unemployed. and a nation fearful of a
pandemic swamping the resources of our hospitals and our health system. let me just speak briefly in broad strokes to what is in this bill, which we have finally ultimately hammered out after days of disagreement. and in advance of our getting the final official text. in the broadest strokes, the help that will be delivered to the american people by this bill starts with individual, something the president has championed, the democrats have supported. we have had different investigators of it, but we have roughly agreed. on $1,200 to every adult citizen making below $75,000, and it phases out to those making below $100,000, with $500 per child, your average family might well see $3,000 to $4,000. these checks will come out in weeks, delivered directly for those with direct deposit through the i.r.s. or by check to those harder to find who
haven't filed recently but are eligible. this is a remarkable direct support to help millions of americans have cash in their family checkbook to get through the unexpected hardship of these next few months. there's more than $100 billion in this bill to support our health workers on the front line and the hospitals that make our public health possible. possible. you heard that story about elmhurst hospital. in my own home state, there are hospitals large and small that without this support will struggle to make it through this period. the heroes of this period are the folks who are working, the folks who are cleaning offices, trains, hospital rooms, often without enough protective equipment, often without health care themselves, often without
adequate pay. the folks who labor at night here in this capitol in our offices to make sure they are clean and safe from this virus we can't see. the folks who work in public hospitals, work long hours. they are orderlies, they are nurses. they are the paramedics and ambulance drivers who deliver the sick, and they are the surgeons and the doctors who direct their care. and one of the things i am proudest of that is in this now that was not in this several days ago is $150 billion to states and counties and cities. the ten years i spent in county government, i came to deeply respect the men and women who help keep our county government afloat and our community stronger, safer, and healthy. this support, this direct support to the states and the counties on the front lines of this epidemic will help them get through it. there's a $500 billion fund, the subject of much discussion and debate, that as initially
written and proposed would help sustain some of our iconic industries like the airlines, but with almost no transparency, in terms of the terms of the loans or the grants that would be given and almost no restrictions on how the companies to receive them might use them for what purposes. broadly speaking, after days of fighting, we have come to agreements that i support and embrace -- restrictions on buybacks and dividends and executive compensation, guarantees against layoffs and against the destruction of collective bargaining agreements, and broadly speaking transparency and accountability. one of the things i am most proud of is that there will be now an accountability board, a pandemic response accountability committee, both a special inspector general and $80 million in this bill for the operation of that accountability committee. let me move since i see i have a number of colleagues who joined me on the floor to just a few
other points, if i could. there is $350 billion in this bill for the small business administration to disburse to small businesses and to nonprofits all over our country, with an incentive structure to change it from a loan to a grant to those who would retain or rehire their workforce. as i have heard from restaurant owners, from hotel owners, from those who work in bars and restaurants and hotels in my community, those are the folks who have been hit the first and the hardest by the closures. this provision will allow those small businesses to reopen quickly and robustly when we get on the other side of this pandemic. and i look forward to working with my colleagues, with the s.b.a. administrator, with the s.b.a. lenders in my state and around the country to make sure it's done well and that it's done quickly. i wrote the bill that added $17 billion more so that 320,000 current small businesses who are
current s.b.a. loan holders get six months of relief, moves them off the agenda of the s.b.a. staff and the s.b.a. lenders to clear the decks for them to administer this $350 billion, and i supported senator cardin and his initiative to add $10 billion for small rapid grants to the most severely impacted businesses and nonprofits. this section of the overall bill where senators rubio, collins, cardin, and shaheen negotiated most of it struck me as the most bipartisan and most productive. there is so much more in this bill i could speak to. the ways in which the resources of the federal reserve are going to be deployed to help medium small businesses and small businesses -- medium businesses and small businesses. the way in which the private sector in my home state has stepped up to partner and deliver critically needed resources, whether it is to refurbish ventilators or donating surplus p.p.e. from the private sector that they don't
need today or the university that has closed its research labs but makes its resources available to our hospital. there are some remarkable efforts at partnership going on in my community and around the country. but at the end of the day, we have a critical question. is this bill perfect? no. could we i am prove it -- improve it by more time here arguing with each other, offering more amendments, debating further? yes. is there something i badly wanted that did not get in this final bill? absolutely. we have had nine major states delay their elections, delay their presidential primaries because of this pandemic, and i urge that a bill written by my colleague, senator klobuchar and senator wyden that i join be added in text to require every state to have a plan to vote by mail during this pandemic. if our troops could vote from the front lines in the civil war and second world war, by gosh, we should have a plan to vote even if this pandemic continues. i was disappointed that text is
ultimately not going to be in this bill. $400 million will be in to help those states that want to vote by mail, to expand and strengthen vote by mail, and i will be back. i will be back to insist on this provision in the next bill. but as i have said to many colleagues in the last few days, we cannot all get everything we hoped for and want and believe to be important in this bill. we must put down the tools of partisanship and personal interest and conscionable concerns. we must put down some of the things we most hoped for. we must put down the tools with which we so often fight each other. and we must come together and take up the implements of national purpose, of compromise, of consensus, and deliver these resources to a nation anxious, concerned, and at times even angry. at all of us in the senate for what they see as too long a
delay. so with that, let me just say to my colleagues, it is time for us to take up this bill, rough hewn as it is, pass it through this chamber, send it to the house. i have urged my colleagues in the house to pass it promptly, send it to the president's desk for signature and then let us all get to the hard work of making sure we do the best we can for the people we represent with this historic stimulus package, this remarkable coronavirus relief package that is going to deliver $2 trillion of assistance and support to communities all over our country. thank you, mr. president. with that, i yield the floor.
a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from nevada. ms. rosen: i rise to let all nevadans know the responses to the pandemic we are facing right now. the coronavirus presents a global challenge to the health and economic security of nevada and the united states. my statutes today are with those in nevada who are ill or suffering with the virus and with the families of the six nevadans who have died because of this disease. ms. cortez masto: i also want to thank the brave men and women on the front lines of this crisis, the first responders and health care workers who are battling to save lives, putting their own health and the health of their families at risk. i know there is a lot of fear and confusion in our communities right now. please know this, though. i am working closely